By: First Union | Date:
Zoom and the Video Conferencing Wars
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Before the first half of 2020, video conferencing had a whole different connotation than it does now. Generally reserved for business meetings, many did not give it a second thought. That of course has changed—drastically. Millions have since taken to video platforms for birthday parties, graduations, religious ceremonies, and classes. How long this trend will last…most are predicting indefinitely in some cases.
Zoom quickly became the name synonymous with video conferencing. Its users grew exponentially between March and May. What the emergence of this video platform company did were essentially fuel competitors to revisit the drawing board and up their games. The likes of Google, Facebook, and Webex have had to scramble to keep up.
This increased competition has officially made the realm of video conferencing the tech industries' next major battleground. And while certainly there is room for numerous companies to provide such services, what it seems to be coming down to is cost and ease of use—both of which work in Zoom's favor.
Last year, the video conferencing market was estimated to be worth almost fifteen billion; within the next five years, that number is expected to be somewhere over fifty billion. And all of this has been sped up by the events of 2020.
So what accounts for Zoom's meteoric rise the first half of the year…largely it was their "freemium" model; in other words, users could hold meetings for up to forty minutes and include up to 100 participants for free. Experts do predict that similar free models now being touted even more by Facebook and Google could start to draw some of Zoom's business away.
Some experts also suggest that video conferencing itself might hurt its potential. If for example, people start to rely on it too heavily and in fact overuse it, then it could make itself irrelevant in terms of some functions. After someone's spent the entire day in Zoom meetings, the appeal of virtual happy hour with friends does lose some of its magic.
Another point of consideration as video conferencing takes off, is the security factor. Zoom did experience this with the emergence of Zoombombing—where trolls would somehow gain access to meetings and interrupt them with profanity or sometimes worse. Especially when schools were the targets, let's just say this became a major headache for Zoom. The company has since set a 90-day window on tightening up security and thereby preventing such breaches. But moving forward, any such security challenges will need to be addressed, ideally before they become a problem.
Will Zoom maintain its dominant run over the competition. It remains to be seen, as there are larger, wealthier companies who could certainly emerge onto the scene in big ways. It also remains to be seen how long exactly the video boom will last.